'Tis the season for a multitude of trends - vivid hues, florals galore, star-studded prints, diaphenous fabrics and the glorious and continued revival of the dress. From the catwalks to the parties and back again, the spring-summer collections in New York, London, Paris and Milan never fail to impress.
Thursday, September 6 New York Fashion Week starts two days earlier than usual to accommodate the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It's a full house at Badgley Mischka, where the duo unleash a wave of stylish swimsuits alongside a parade of sensual gowns. With a taste of 1920s French Riviera, the clothes are liquid and soft, contrasted with sharp tailoring and splashes of bold colour. A divine black tulle dress closes the show, as actress Teri Hatcher claps wildly.
Geometric shapes and luxurious fabrics are Yeohlee's forte. Her spring collection, inspired by the American southwest, features her signature bold cuts and a colour scheme that represents different times of the day, from dawn to dusk. Oversized poncho-like outerwear gleams in silver and asymmetry is a successful recurring theme.
Friday, September 7 First up, for a 9am kick-off to today's shows, is Ports 1961's Safiri collection. Although Africa is a common summer motif, these offerings are fresh and original. A palette borrowed from the earth and sky creates sombre, gentle looks while traditional fabrics such as mud cloth and kanga, together with horsehair trim and burlap accessories, make an ethnic statement. Shape and form are similarly traditional and hemlines are raised to create easy asymmetric angles.
Next, Vera Wang's collection combines Roman elements with updated soft-edge silhouettes. Prints include dappled clouds, heavy-handed brushstrokes and etched lines that pay tribute to the murals of Pompeii. Highlights include loose-gauge knits that flutter with sheer organza inserts and the unusually youthful, dropped-crotch cargo shorts in vibrant royal purple.
Later, Max Azria's scantily clad girls reflect his focus on the bedroom, appearing in corseted satin dresses with chiffon ra-ra miniskirts, silky pyjama suits and softly belted robe-coats. Highlights come in the form of 20s-style flapper dresses with colour-blocked bodices and a linen trenchcoat with multiple, petal-like revers.
J. Mendel calls his show 'a study in sophisticated contrasts', which is evident in his sensual rainbow of deep purple, acid orange and hot-pink chiffon.
A purple empire-waisted chiffon gown with a plunging neck-line is a winner.
Saturday, September 8 Today, Diesel makes its 'Squeaky Clean' debut at the tents in Bryant Park. The show proves it's OK to mix white and colour, especially with a hint of 80s styling. The brand's omnipresent spray-on jeans are paired with oversized T-shirts; dresses are loosely cut with bounce.
At night, Ralph Lauren's 40th-anniversary show is celebrated stylishly at the Conservatory Garden with an immaculate collection inspired by a day at the races. The equestrian theme that has played a major role in the designer's career appears in a playful print. The youthful palette of vivid jockey satins and the crystal-trimmed jodhpurs are more Madison Avenue than Hong Kong Jockey Club and contrast well with the Edwardian-style nipped-waist peplum jackets, oversized hats and floral, frilled tea dresses.
Sunday, September 9 There's no day of rest for the fashion pack. Derek Lam cites the spring season as inspiration for his chic and wearable looks, which focus on simple shapes. Streamlined jersey/Lycra suits hug every curve, but pared-back fabrics play down the sexy silhouette. A short playsuit in weighty, spotted jacquard is more to do with luxe sophistication than flesh-baring frivolity.
Meanwhile, Reem Acra's collection is all about vibrant colours, layering and texture, with undergarments seemingly unintentionally exposed.
The designer claims her newest line is all about rejuvenation. Winners include a pewter and black tulle dress and sack jackets with a modern touch.
Across town, Peter Som takes a light-hearted approach, with billowing fabrics in barely there vapour greys, soft shell pink and pale pistachio on feather-light silk organza and chiffon. Silhouettes span the ultra feminine, adding an ethereal look to simple belted jackets and neat knee-length skirts.
Later on, in an overcrowded tent, Michael Kors reveals that his mother inspired his collection. The hues range from mandarin orange to spring green, creating a look that is part nautical, part tennis-club chic. The show pulsates with energy, contrasting with the simple designs.
The epitome of sexy New York, Narciso Rodriguez displays a soft swell of fullness at the hip of a tucked-front dress and gentle bell-shape sleeves add to the almost hourglass shape of a crisp white jacket and silky indigo coat. The collection features soft white and pearly tones shot with flashes of parma violet, purple and ink blue.
Phillip Lim focuses on comfort this season. The show opens with To The East by Electrelane as models strut on a textured gold runway. Citing 'people in transition' as his influence, he showcases a colourful collection of cobalts, citrons and scarlets. Shift dresses are jazzed up with wide sleeves and relaxed cuts.
Late in the afternoon, Diane von Furstenberg's slew of celebrity friends line the front row and billionaire husband Barry Diller nods in appreciation as each piece comes out. Having climbed the volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli recently, DVF dresses her girls in muted safari suits, kaftans and sundresses with volcano-inspired prints. Except for a chiffon pirate wrap dress that opens the show, her signature wraps are absent.
Monday, September 10 Carolina Herrera paints a dramatic picture, bursting with colour and blossoming with embroidery. Her inspiration comes from the watercolours of artist Jeremiah Goodman and, like the paintings, delicate layers are draped and sculpted to create volume and dimension with lavish finishes. Show stoppers include a pool blue and green polka-dot silk chiffon dress and a corseted gazar-silk number with a ruffle at the knee.
In one of the most anticipated shows of the season, Oscar de la Renta sends his girls walking in a beautiful church garden on Park Avenue. Hippie band the Polyphonic Spree perform live as dresses, suits, jackets and stunning gowns appear on the runway. Luxe touches included embroidery with shimmering pailettes to feather-covered hats and snake-skin sandals. Tops are belted and colours such as red, turquoise, moss green, cream and navy have been added.
Later that night, back at the tents, Anna Sui's show shines with playful 70s-meets-30s styling and a wildly joyful palette. Bold graphic stripes worked into chevrons sit alongside masculine Prince of Wales checks, ditsy florals and deco geometrics. Then, switching gears, a series of delicate, pale organza gowns trimmed with fluttering feathers and silver spangles fills the runway.
Vivienne Tam's new flagship store in New York is located, appropriately, between Tribeca and Chinatown, and this is where she presents her collection. The 16-piece line is so simple it is almost stark - a futuristic silver and white leather cheongsam is the biggest crowd-pleaser. Other Asian touches are goldfish sequins and grey Mao suits.
Rushing to the Armory Track and Field Centre for Marc Jacobs' 9pm show proves unnecessary. A bevy of fashionably late celebrities trickle in and by the time the show starts, at 11pm, many people have already left. Jacobs once again stuns his audience, with a show that runs backwards, starting with his bow, followed by the finale then each outfit coming down the runway. Often criticised for not creating sexy clothes, he says sex is his inspiration this year and his boudoir girls entice in liquid satins and silky charmeuse. There's an asymmetrical draped gown that reveals a sheer, nude-coloured teddy, a black lace opera cape over chiffon track pants and an unexpected pairing of a rustic tweed boxy jacket over floaty sheers.
Tuesday, September 11 The invitation to Betsey Johnson's show is printed on a pink balloon and, as always, her show lives up to her sexy, girlie reputation. The dresses are divided into decades, from the exaggerated crinolines inspired by the 50s to the empire waists and daisies of the 60s and current prom choices, such as the decorated petticoat party dresses.
Soon after, in the Garment District, Calvin Klein's girls teeter on high heels in body-skimming dresses cut at the calf, giving his show an angelic fragility. Clean lines, unfussy shapes and block colours dare to embrace simple chic in a season where bold tribal looks abound. Elongated shapes are emphasised with double seamless pencil skirts or pleat-front trousers, both with high waists. The season's trend for volume appears in a blouson sports jacket and in wide-cut sleeves on coats.
Later, at Bryant Park, Zac Posen's collection pays homage to early American settlers. Models appear in hayseed hats and Amish-like bonnets but everything below the brims is modern and covetable. A safari vest teamed with short shorts and snug dresses with gauze or feathered hems are crowd-pleasers. With ribbons fluttering in the breeze, the stunning finale nimbus gowns are as light as clouds and rendered in a water-colour of sky blue.
Wednesday, September 12 As with any fantastic party, the last day of fashion week comes all too soon. Donna Karan headlines the day and infuses her womanly silhouettes with American sportswear references. Her collection includes hourglass-shaped jackets and full swirling skirts - a look that contrasts nicely with her sultry pencil skirts. The show picks up on several of the season's key trends: soft shorts, the safari-pocket jacket and waisted dresses.
The last show bids farewell to this season's American designers. The red, white and blue clothes classic, Tommy Hilfiger, finds his inspiration in the sea. Guys and girls parade around the Hammerstein Ballroom in navy and white nautical, safari khakis with a neutral palette and pastels. On that note, New York Fashion Week sails off into the sunset. Flora Wu
Saturday, September 15 Mulberry launches fashion week with a British tea party - serving Moet & Chandon, tea and pink cupcakes - to celebrate its Julie for Mulberry 'pop-up shop' in Notting Hill. The pop-up, or temporary, store is stocking the label's new line of printed silk dresses and bags, created by designer Stuart Vevers and fashion illustrator Julie Verhoeven.
The opening day is filled with fashion week's big names such as Caroline Charles, Paul Costelloe and Ben de Lisi. Bora Aksu, who seems to adhere to the Hussein Chalayan school of cerebral design, creates a buzz with pleated and draped silk dresses in ochre, grey and maroon, and innovative knits.
The day finishes with singer Shirley Bassey sitting front row at Issa. Designer Daniella Hellayel's Copacabana frilled bikinis and bottom-skimming dresses have attracted a growing celebrity following. The mood is joyful, with Hellayel mixing her prints with pop-art spots and stripes in a casual sporty theme. The finale is a spectacular display by an aerialist fluttering like a butterfly suspended on Issa's printed silk.
Sunday, September 16 It is warm, so Louise Goldin's synchronised-swimmer-themed show is a refreshing start to the day. Girls with red lips and latex swim caps parade aqua, ocean blue and tangerine swimwear and elaborately constructed hooded cagoules and dresses. With such dynamic use of colour and unusual silhouettes, Missoni should offer her a job.
Next is Amanda Wakeley's glamorous pared-down sportswear. It's very American, with luxurious leather jackets and cropped grey trousers, tunics and long draped jersey dresses in shades of stone and marble.
Wakeley's signature is sophisticated minimalism - a look over-the-top designer Gareth Pugh knows little about. Everyone loves Pugh's exuberance but he is trying to tone down the theatrics, including the cavewoman fur-and-leather-fringed coats and sparkling chain-mail dresses. He produces beautifully cut suede-fringed gilets and 'body-con' (body conscious) dresses. Having American designer Rick Owens as his mentor is paying off.
Then there's the joyful energy of Eley Kishimoto's village-fete-themed parade of frill-hemmed jackets, cute dresses and shorts in a madcap mix of Wakako Kishimoto's prints.
Julien Macdonald, however, remains the city's greatest showman, packing in celebs such as Joan Collins and Bassey, whose stage costumes he creates. Macdonald looks ahead to London's hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games, giving the athletic look a spin with go-faster stripes on knitted body-hugging dresses, sporty polo shirts, cycle shorts and swimwear.
London is an extraordinary mix of talent and styles, from sophisticated to anarchic.
Monday, September 17 It's a hectic day - with nine shows and a party marathon on the itinerary. Marios Schwab's visceral show is fascinating, with prints based on the human body and tailoring manipulated to simulate the muscles and skeleton. It sounds dreadful but is enthralling and clever.
One of London's hippest young designers, Luella Bartley, launches her new wares with a big nighttime party and a rollicking fashion show of naughty-girl clothes. Pretty Liberty-print tea dresses are dipped in black, flippy skirts are covered in plastic flowers and her trademark sugar-sweet prom dresses are worn with leather bomber jackets. Her look is quintessentially English with a rebellious streak.
In contrast, Jasper Conran is a scene of elegance. Liquid lame and sculpted jersey melt into a sleek silhouette in a luxurious palette of ochre, cinnamon, bronze and brown that will be snapped up by his clientele of rich and stylish women. Will they also swoon at tonight's launch of his two new fragrances, Mister and Mistress?
Jonathan Saunders also aims at effortless chic, but surprises by eschewing his signature prints for graphic colour blocking in black and white and delicate combinations of ice blue, eau de nil, nude and a hint of pink.
Talking of surprises, the new champion of body con, Christopher Kane, has ditched intricate lacing for voluminous flounces. Kane is already reinventing his look with leather ra-ra skirts, ripped jeans and python jackets to counterbalance the softness of the chiffon ruffled dresses. It's a small selection of desirable pieces because his original collection was stolen in a burglary a week ago.
In the evening John Rocha is celebrating the opening of his Dover Street store. Before that there
is the little matter of a show, which Rocha says is inspired by sculptor Alexander Calder's work. Embroidered star and moon motifs and highlights of tangerine and kingfisher blue enliven the monochromatic palette. He continues his signature masculine-feminine interplay with frills softening
I make it to four of the five parties being thrown tonight. Not a shabby effort.
Tuesday, September 18 A quiet day, the mood subdued by a touching memorial service for Isabella Blow, the eccentric fashion stylist and talent spotter, who committed suicide earlier this year. American Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, International Herald Tribune fashion editor Suzy Menkes and Blow's editor at The Tatler, Geordie Greig, give addresses to a congregation of the great and good of British fashion and minor royals. Supermodel Lily Cole removes the geeky glasses, preppie blazers and knee-length cable-knit dresses (shown with long satin skirts) she's just been strutting for Paul Smith to get to Guards Chapel in time.
Those not at the service wait patiently for Nicole Farhi's show to begin. Farhi, who is celebrating 25 years in the business, keeps doing what she does best: tribal prints on loose voluminous dresses, palazzos and playsuits topped with big floppy hats.
Wednesday, September 19 There are bleary eyes after the magnificent Golden Age of Couture gala, hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum and Christian Dior. Those who set their alarms and get
to Betty Jackson, another much-loved and long-established designer, are gently roused by pretty metropolitan looks and easy-to-wear shapes.
Fashionistas wake for Roksanda Ilincic, the Serbian-born designer of a demi-couture style fast becoming one of the most desirable labels on the cocktail circuit. Elegant satin dresses draped at the shoulder or strapless fall to mid-calf and are cinched at the waist with obi-style belts.
To celebrate the launch of his 10-year retrospective at the Design Museum, Matthew Williamson returns to London from New York, where he normally shows. There is a suspicious character lurking in the front row wearing a trilby and raincoat. It's rumoured that it's Prince, but we've been duped before. Then, as two dancers high-kick down the catwalk, the man whips out a microphone and starts moaning suggestively into it. And the artist formerly known as squiggle jumps on stage. It's difficult to calm down and appraise the designer's colourful South American embroidered shifts, sexy safari shirts, jewelled waistcoats and African batik print dresses after the opening act.
It is back to the world of sober classics at Aquascutum. Suprisingly, the Jil Sander-esque minimalist sportif look of trenches, shifts and pencil skirts presented by creative duo Michael Herz and Graeme Fidler are anything but classic.
Nathan Jenden, whose day job is designing for Diane von Furstenberg, is creating a successful label of his own. Forget sophistication: this collection, shown at a boxing hall in the East End, is about frothy fun with boating jackets, tulle skirts with petticoats and ruffled white tunics - all white and wrapped with black bows.
London's hot new model Agyness Deyn sports a peroxide blond crop for the House of Holland show, then flame-red for designer Giles Deacon. Most of the girls have dishevelled ringlets, pink cheeks and pretty pixie hats for designer Deacon's romp through the woods. Corseted dresses and flounced skirts appliqued with laser-cut flowers are reminiscent of Meissen figurines of shepherdesses. The only touch of darkness in this pastoral innocence is the silk dress print of Bambi with blood dripping from his throat.
A packed week of shows - sore feet and heads aside - is full of zesty colours, draped silhouettes, stiff fabrics, shorts, very many dresses and a trend for tuxedo detailing. As always, London Fashion Week is overflowing with ideas from the crazy to the sublime, but that's what the city is about. Francesca Fearon
Monday, September 24 We step off the plane into the summer heat of Milan - just the kind of temperatures festival-goers would have loved at Glastonbury this year instead of the ubiquitous mud. However, D&G's sunny Glastonbury collection of hippy patchwork dresses, vintage brocades, leather bomber jackets and fit and flared jeans would soon cheer up soggy rock chicks.
Giorgio Armani continues the summery mood with a collection inspired by the light and textures of southern Italy. Gypsy scarves, water-colour-print organza dresses and fringed skirts bring a little romance to his signature pieces, but he does like to test us with strange shorts knotted at the knee.
While Milan is in a gentle romantic mood, Christopher Bailey is talking up the luxe-warrior look at Burberry Prorsum. I didn't think tough chic was selling but maybe Bailey is teasing: his warrior has a taste for shirring, fringing and tiny pleats that create body-hugging silhouettes. Chunky belts studded with Celtic symbols harden things up.
There is a tinge of sadness when Gianfranco Ferre's team stages its fashion show, their first
since the sudden death of the designer in June. The collection lacks his vision but the announcement
of Lars Nilsson (ex Nina Ricci) as the new creative director should give them a fresh perspective.
Milan is toasting Vivienne Westwood, the mistress of street cred, and her impact on fashion with an excellent exhibition of her work at the Palazzo Reale (until January 20). Bravo!
Tuesday, September 25 Zinging orange fused with pale and hot pink, navy, apricot and grey: Jil Sander's eye-popping colour combinations are perfect for a sunny day. Belgium designer Raf Simons started the vibrancy trend last summer at Sander and revisits it this season but in a beautifully controlled way, with a streamlined minimalist silhouette and a play on proportions. He slips a tiny jacket over a long slender waistcoat and the skinniest trousers, which make even the vertically challenged look tall.
Milan is in a colourful mood today. Sportmax mixes olive and peachy tones for its military-meets-flapper girl look. Pringle offers lime, red or grey knits with slouchy pants and an easy, sporty vibe. Anna Molinari at Blumarine targets the luxe-yachty set. Blumarine gals will be heading for Rimini and St Tropez in lime, orange and pink leather bomber jackets and matching minis, tunics, safari jackets and hot pants, and with kaftans for cocktails on deck.
Actress Shu Qi looks the part in the front row for Moschino. Wearing purple satin, she echoes the
bright ruffles, feathers and prints on the catwalk, but Moschino's shots of colour are the antithesis of Sander's pared-down modern style. The ruffles, rosettes and Chanel-style bows are for a flirtier and much more feminine customer.
Bottega Veneta, meanwhile, is altogether more grown-up, with elegant Italian movie-star looks circa 1950s, presented perfectly polished with red lips, sunglasses and gloves. Covetable trench coats, linen dresses and safari jackets with delicate pleating and ruching are produced in blush pink and marble tones.
Bally and Tod's are also breathing glamour and modernity into their brands. Brian Atwood, the new boy at Bally, is using luxurious snakeskin, crocodile and suede in an organic way for accessories to complement romantic, ethnic fashions. Derek Lam is also using exotic skins, for Tod's new Goa and Natty bags. The big news, though, is the way he is using strong colours to inject the brand's classic loafers, ballet flats and wedges with a youthful zing.
A pretty parade of ethnic silk dresses in madras and ikat prints at Pollini is followed by luxe sportswear brand Moncler's blousons and tuxedo-style jackets by Alessandra Facchinetti, who is replacing Valentino chief Valentino Garavani when he retires in January.
Prada is a surprise. After the tough chic of autumn, Miuccia Prada creates a fairyland for spring. The look is magical, with flower-fairy-print organza dresses and pyjamas and knits. Shoes are sculpted like trees. The pale, hollowed-out look of the models, though, suggests all is not perfect in this enchanted garden.
Wednesday, September 26 Huge storms turn Milan into traffic hell. The city's mayor calls in all taxis to keep the city moving during the fashion shows but the strategy simply chokes the streets with vehicles. Marni's Consuela Castiglioni continues to create her geometric shapes with crafty accessories - chunky platforms, sculpted cuffs and quirky necklaces. There is still a techno vibe in the materials but she adds an arty touch with abstract and dripping motifs.
Furla's exciting new talent forum is sponsoring young bag and shoe designers. Russian Max Kibardin is the one to watch.
Roberto Cavalli is on sizzling form. His show - with whimsically Laura-Ashley-esque Victorian underwear and breezy Liberty-print chiffon dresses followed by sweet flower-fairy dresses picking up on Prada's theme of enchantment - is hot.
The last collection by Graeme Black for Ferragamo (he is leaving to focus on his own successful line) not surprisingly fixes on the luxury-leisure look for sporty gals with a taste for kaftans, playsuits and dresses with dramatic low backs.
Sadly, there are no diamonds or perfume at the preview of Emporio Armani's Diamonds fragrance commercial, starring Beyonce singing Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend. There is, though, plenty of twinkle and sparkle on the catwalk as Armani updates some of his vast repertoire of flippy skirts, billowing sarong tops and cropped fitted jackets.
It's a day for hawking new fragrances. A provocative David Lynch-directed commercial for Gucci perfume is next. There is barely time to test the fragrance before creative director Frida Giannini is sending out rockabilly girls in little patent-leather biker-jackets and puffy skirts in black and white graphics with shots of yellow and pink. There are boyish looks in monochromatic checks. The new gilded evening shoes and peep-toe lace-ups are adorable.
The thermometer has plummeted to 11 degrees as we don cocktail frocks for Alberta Ferretti's fashion show and dinner. Poor Ferretti: who could have predicted guests would be rubbing the goose bumps from bare legs while checking out models in toga-draped dresses before sitting on open balconies for the chilliest dinner of the week?
Thursday, September 27 It's still cold but Pucci soon warms us with sizzling geometric prints in hot pink, tangerine, mango and coral. Matthew Williamson puts a modern spin on Pucci with beautiful sunset colours and boxy coat and tunic combos that will be worn by the Palm Beach and Capri crowd. He experiments with laser-cut patterns on chamois leather and stitches colourful snakeskin patchwork on suede.
Ferragamo is reviving Marilyn Monroe's brown crocodile courts next season while Sergio Rossi has amazing cantilevered heels and stone-studded wedges in the pipeline.
Then it's on to Loro Piano's sporty crisp linens, silky knits and performance jackets - super luxe leisurewear - before Dolce & Gabbana. Wow! This collection is a stunner as the boys tap into the artsy print theme painting Milan this season. Lovely floral dresses, brocade skirts and signature corset dresses segue into huge beautiful ballgowns, each one hand painted with cherry blossoms, rosebuds and hibiscus to be sold as a limited edition.
We meet Christina Ricci, who's hosting a drinks party for ck Klein as it launches a cosmetics range. The Fendi collection will go down a storm in Hong Kong with the lucky circular - bull's eye - motif a theme on Karl Lagerfeld's romantic dresses. Lagerfeld works the circles in tiny chiffon and tulle frills.
Then it is on to the queen of cling, Donatella Versace. In truth, she is easing her grip on the torso and producing less sexpot and more seductive women's clothing. Aside from creating a less-body-con shirt dress in bright satins and glossy but easy-fitting safari looks, she is employing the same vibrant colour palette we are seeing elsewhere to juice up her gorgeous silk jersey red-carpet dresses.
Friday, September 28 Some press may love it and the buyers hate it, but squeezing Milan into a gruelling four days is a killer in high heels. The upside has been lots of beautiful colour, a return to femininity - after the hard-edged sexiness of the autumn - and some beautiful artists' prints. I spend my final few hours perusing Bottega Veneta's bags and the luxurious spherical-shaped precious jewels and take a last lingering look at the lovely pale ruched jersey dresses. At Daks, British designer Giles Deacon affirms the mood for gorgeous colour in pinks and greens. The artistic mood has left its brushstrokes all over Milan. Francesca Fearon
Monday, October 1 I rise at the ungodly hour of 6am to catch the Eurostar train to Paris in time for the Christian Dior show. After recapturing our hearts in March with his glamorous and dramatic collection, John Galliano's spring offering is toned down and wearable.
Opening with Sting's Englishman in New York (the singer and his wife, Trudie Styler, are in the front row, along with rapper Kanye West), Galliano does what he knows best. We admire the androgynous tailoring of his three-piece suits - with waistcoats, braces and wide-legged trousers - and a series of bias-cut and 1920s-style boudoir-inspired dresses with lace, oversized corsages and shimmering crystal fringes.
All are in homage to entertainer Josephine Baker.
At the end we wait eagerly for Galliano's eccentric bow and are not disappointed: he takes to the runway in his underpants, a top hat, braces and tails, and smoking a cigarette.
Tuesday, October 2 Everyone is talking about Balenciaga's collection, in which Nicholas Ghesquiere has taken florals to new dimensions, with computer-generated prints on dresses featuring rounded shoulders and soft volume at the hips. These evolved into tops and tiny shorts only the brave (or very thin) will be wearing next spring.
In the evening, we assemble at Jean Paul Gaultier's showroom to see what the cheeky designer has been working on since his trip to the Scottish Highlands last autumn. The Frenchman is evidently a fan of Pirates of the Caribbean and sends his models out in layers of covetable booty, from sheer blouses and jodhpurs, to jackets with matador-style shoulders and striped separates. Accessories include crochet skullcaps, fringed scarves, pipes, wide leather belts worn three at a time and an umbrella with a pistol for a handle. The brides at the end, in swathes of tulle, lace, crochet and sequins, look perfect hostage material for Captain Jack Sparrow. Shiver me timbers!
Wednesday, October 3 It's a big day for Valentino as he presents his final ready-to-wear collection before ex-Gucci designer Alessandra Facchinetti takes over next autumn. Valentino made his name designing for a certain type of woman - the trophy wife who lunches in New York and spends her holidays in St Tropez - and this season they are spoiled for choice. Frilly and polka-dot cocktail dresses are mixed with statement gowns such as a yellow taffeta stunner with flower ruffles. All the signature details are there with flounces, ruching, bows and even sequins. At the end, Val's gals congregate at the end of the runway, smiling and dancing as the master couturier takes his last bow to Prince's Kiss. Women, not girls, rule his world, and rightly so.
Later, we stumble into a dark part of the Grand Palais for Dries Van Noten's stellar show. From the first look to the last, Van Noten works like a master painter, producing head-to-toe floral prints on pyjama-like trousers, wrap-around tops, blouses and dresses. His signature chunky embellishments add luxury at the neckline or on shoulder straps. Accessories include sandals and striking round-toe pumps made with gathered floral fabric.
Thai royalty are in the front row at Loewe along with burlesque dancer Dita von Teese. They are sure to love the flowing plisse goddess gowns with rope belts. The white shift dress with laser-cut holes is chic while a blue and white Chinese floral print is mixed with stripes on short dresses and tops. Next season will be interesting as Mulberry's Stuart Vevers takes over from Jose Enrique Ona Selfa as creative director.
At Givenchy, Riccardo Tisci takes a leaf out of Valentino's book and focuses on polka dots for his collection, although his are darker and more abstract (and more in keeping with new muse Courtney Love). To begin he sends out sheer cocktail dresses shaded from black to grey and featuring oversized dots. The look progresses to cut-outs on dresses and jackets but it's his precisely tailored military and leather jackets we will be seeing most of next spring.
Thursday, October 4 The girls love Stella McCartney and this morning she gives us pretty ruffled dresses in white and a wild-flower print that also appears on a spaghetti-strap silk jumpsuit. It's all very 70s, with oversized silk pyjama tops and blazers worn as dresses lending a boudoir vibe. The animal-loving designer chose shark-printed denim for her 50s-style bathing suits; the tailoring we love appears in safari suits and tuxedo jackets. Her famous father high-fives Twiggy and West as a pregnant McCartney takes her bow against a vertical garden backdrop designed by French botanist Patrick Blanc.
At Celine, West is in the front row again as Ivana Omazic references the underpinings of a 19th-century women's wardrobe with her modern take on whale boning and crinolines. Bones appear on a fluid jersey T-shirt, sleeveless vest and fitted jacket, all in minimalist white. Skirts feature a crinoline band at the bottom that moves with the body, as colours such as red, blush and brown are added into the mix.
Later, under the starry skies of Paris, Stefano Pilati shows that he has worked one of Yves Saint Laurent's icons, the star, onto a white dress in bursts of colourful sequins. The motif also appears on the buttons of a cardigan and on pretty strappy sandals that incapacitate one of the models. While not everyone will be starry eyed over these pieces, Pilati's elegant and precisely tailored cap-sleeved blazers, waistcoats and cropped trousers in shades of blue and beige are proof this designer is still one of the strongest in Paris.
Friday, October 5 We may be up at 10am for Chanel but the Kaiser is focusing on a different time of the day with a collection titled Nuits d'Ete. It's a celeb fest, with Von Teese, actress Kirsten Dunst and Victoria Beckham (wearing a vintage green dress, not Chanel, shock horror) in the audience. It seems Karl Lagerfeld is inspired by Americana, with denim jackets - including a chic trenchcoat - stars and stripes and plenty of red, white and blue. For the evening, he delivers classic shift dresses updated with semi-circular sequin panels at the waist, capelet and flutter sleeves and grommets threaded with dangling chains and pearls. Editors are loving the miniature classic 2.55 bag, which is worn strapped around the ankle.
After Chanel I head to Roger Vivier to see what Bruno Frisoni has in store for spring. The new Kubik pump features a softly curved heel, enhanced with a metallic blade, while the must-have Buckle Lounge bag is perfect for everyday in fabrics ranging from patent leather to crocodile. New to Vivier are lace-free trainers with rubber soles and the signature buckle. Ideal for shopping trips.
Saturday, October 6 Chloe Sevigny is at Chloe to watch Paulo Melim Andersson's second collection, which is a departure from the hard girl he created last autumn. The models sail down the runway in drop-waist, mid-calf chiffon and mousseline dresses with contrasting fabric panels. Colour is introduced under the top layers in geometric patterns or with bold brushstrokes that look as if they've been painted directly onto the fabric. While it's creative, it gets a bit repetitive by the end.
Later, Gaultier delights us - and supermodel Naomi Campbell in the front row - with a collection capturing the richness and beauty of India for Hermes. Staples of the east are given a luxe update
in the form of Nehru-style jackets, alligator jodhpurs matched with riding boots, brass-studded suede tunics and sari-inspired dresses thrown over or clasped at the shoulder, all accessorised with turbans made from towelling fabric. Aside from shimmering metallics, the palette is bursting with beautiful shades of saffron, pink, purple and turquoise. The orange backdrop at the end of the runway changes colour as cascades of red powder fall to the ground. A definite favourite so far.
Sunday, October 7 It's the last day of Paris Fashion Week, which means plenty of shows. It starts with Nina Ricci, where Olivier Theyskens has created a poetic collection featuring auburns, greys and black, which is more autumn than spring. The Nina Ricci girl doesn't wear fancy bal gowns; instead she's hip and edgy, with dishevelled blazers, twisted satin tunics, rock tees and shimmering trousers. The slashed jackets and loose-knit cardigans may appeal to the young, but the tai-tais will love the closing series of beautifully sculpted and plisse metallic gowns.
It's off to the Miu Miu show, which is held in a private mansion on the chic Avenue Foch. Images of French maids and ballerinas are projected onto screens as the models come out in similar - but naughty - looks. Short tutus feature colourful metallic stripes, stained-glass prints make their way onto super-short empire dresses and Peter Pan collars appear on almost every outfit. For those who are shy, Miuccia Prada adds bloomers underneath. As we exit, the Hong Kong press - inexplicably - go wild when they spot Adrien Brody making his way backstage.
You are always guaranteed a great time at Lanvin and the dark forest of Nina Ricci's earlier show is transformed into a fun playground with fairy lights and bow-tie-clad waiters handing out ice lollies to hot editors. Trenches are so light and thin they move with the body while goddess dresses are draped and belted at the waist. What follows is close to couture, with short dresses decorated with cascades of ostrich feathers or painstakingly folded ruffles, brightly coloured pleated dresses that balloon in the back and a 20s-style shimmy dress decorated with crystal and feather embellishments. For everyday wear, there are fitted blazers, pencil skirts and ruffled blouses. The audience is smiling wildly as designer Alber Elbaz gets the standing ovation he deserves.
Louis Vuitton is scheduled to start at 7pm but Marc Jacobs (or some say it's Victoria Beckham) keeps the audience waiting way past 8pm. The Vogue girls in the front row are placated with glasses of water while the rest of us join the hissing from the photographers at the end of the runway.
When the show opens, Jacobs sends out a series of sexy nurses, including Campbell, carrying the latest bags featuring spray painting and text from artist Richard Prince. The collection itself is a mish-mash, with layering as a key theme. Transparent jackets and tops, lurex knits, pencil skirts and tulle dresses appear in colours such as grey, green, mauve, yellow and pink. At the end, Jacobs appears, looking even skinnier than last season (rehab will do that to you), and sticks out his tongue at International Herald Tribune's Suzy Menkes, spawning a wave of controversy still being discussed in the press. On that note, fashion week comes to an end. The emerging trends included star prints, sleeveless blazers, ankle-length trousers, dresses and plenty of florals.